Most people know Botox as a treatment used to reduce wrinkles. This popular, minimally invasive injection hit the modern market in 2002 as a way to regain a youthful appearance and reduce the signs of aging. In addition to its cosmetic use, Botox has been found to have some unexpected additional medical benefits. The treatment has been approved for several applications currently in use, with over 90 other application requests pending with the Food and Drug Administration.
Botox is formulated with a toxin found in the bacterium botulism. This bacterium is known as onabotulinum toxin a. Botox, originally called Onabotulinum, was utilized the 1960s by an ophthalmologist as a way to treat patients with crossed eyes. Botox worked for this common eye condition because it paralyzed the muscles that caused the eyes to cross and allowed eyes face forward.
Botox works similarly for wrinkles. "Like its effect on the eye muscles, Botox paralyzes facial muscles -causing wrinkles to relax and even out. This gives the patient a more youthful appearance," says Dr. Mona Alquali, M.D., Ph.D., FACOG. Alquali is an ob-gyn in Clinton, Iowa, and, in addition to practicing obstetrics and gynecology, also offers her patients popular MED-spa treatments like Microdermabrasion, chemical peels and Botox for a total care approach. "Botox is a great treatment for patients looking for a minimally invasive, nonsurgical way to reduce signs of aging." The treatment is performed in the office, requires a topical anesthetic and results typically last three to four months, says Alquali.
Additionally, Botox has also been proven successful in treating individuals that struggle with excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis. The Botox toxin blocks the chemical messengers that trigger sweat production sent by the brain to the sweat glands. Because this messenger never reaches the gland, the body will not produce sweat. Injections are localized to the afflicted area. Botox for excessive sweating has been found to be most successful for the armpit but is also successful for excessively sweaty hands and feet.
Adults who experience chronic migraines also find relief with Botox injections. Injections are given in the head and neck, and like its use with hyperhidrosis, blocks the chemical message being sent to nerve endings, but instead of the sweat signal, it prevents the pain signal. Results last for several months and treatments are reversible.
Other studies have shown that Botox is extremely helpful in treating overactive bladder. With overactive bladder, the bladder muscle contracts frequently. This recurrent contraction causes the urge to urinate as well as bladder leaks. Some overactive bladder sufferers have experienced relief when Botox was injected directly into their bladder muscle. The bacterium causes muscle paralysis, allowing the bladder to relax and symptoms subside. Patients with overactive bladder who receive Botox injections see results that typically last three to four months.
In 2015, a University of Ottawa study found Botox has more benefits for the skin that reach beyond reducing wrinkles. Researchers found that participants experienced an unintended side effect after receiving injections. This side effect was an improvement in their overall skin quality, which resulted in a more youthful visage. The injections seemed to stimulate the body’s production of collagen and elastin. These two proteins are essential for skin elasticity. They keep the skin pliable and firm, says Alquali.
"Elastin and collagen decrease as we age. As this happens, patients will see their skin become drier, duller and start to sag," Alquali explains.
Researchers are still not 100 percent sure why the skin quality is improved with Botox. Some scientists believe that the body floods the injection site as a defense against the toxin. Others believe that the paralytic effect of the injection simply allows the skin to rest, and while the skin is at rest, collagen and elastin can rebuild, resulting in an improved appearance.